Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Up on My High Horse, Foaming at the Mouth

I am going to veer off in two directions on this post, so try and bear with me.

I Hate Disney, Part One

I think I have already detailed my hatred of the princess phenomenon on this blog on more than one occasion. I am, in general, quite cheesed off at Disney for their fucked-up Disney Princess marketing, mainly because I consider it both racist and sexist, and I don't know why, but for some reason I'm just not down with that bullshit. Call me crazy. I don’t understand why people insist on giving Viva Disney Princess crap, but I don’t make a big deal about it because what other people choose to do with their money is their business. I politely say thank you and later dispose of it.

However: one of Sweet Dub’s friends from law school has a little girl who is just a few months younger than Viva, and she recently turned 3. And her parents recently threw her a princess party, at which all the little girls (no boys invited) were to be dressed up as princesses, get their nails done, faces painted, and pick out jewelry to wear.

“Okay,” I told myself. “There is nothing wrong with wanting to play dress-up. Viva can wear a generic princess costume if she wants to. No problem.”

I bought her a princess dress at a costume shop. We went to the party. She had a great time playing with J's toys, watching a puppet show, and participating in a ballet class led by a fairy princess. She refused to get her nails done.

So! Not so bad, right? Well, now Viva has begun planning her birthday party for next year. She insists it is going to be a princess party. With no boys. Oh my God, I hate Disney with a hateful hatingness that knows no bounds. Where do I start?

Well, first: I do not want Viva to discriminate against anyone. I don’t think it’s okay to exclude other kids from a party simply based on gender. I want her to have friends who are boys. I like boys. I don’t buy into this whole gender separation deal at all; it makes me distinctly uncomfortable. As a corollary to that, I don’t want the boys of Viva’s generation to view girls as anything less than people. I find it incredible that in 2006, we are faced with a different form of sexist bullshit. (Yes, call me na├»ve.) If I were a little boy and swallowed this princess mindset, I would conclude that girls are pretty lame, focused mainly on looks and acquiring stuff, and easily distracted by shiny sparkly things.

I also don’t want Viva to think her sole value comes from being pretty. Well, let’s face it, she is gorgeous. But she is also smart, and funny, and kind. And I don’t want her to equate having nice clothes and nice things as the be-all and end-all of everything.

Perhaps you think I’m overreacting. What? Are you new?

By the way: Mommy Track’d has come up with an anti-princess reading list. Beautiful! Where’s my debit card?

I Hate Disney, Part Two

About the only show I like on the Disney Channel (i.e. that I will allow Viva to watch) is Charlie and Lola, because it is clever and endearing and shows such a lovely sibling relationship. It has become one of the shows we tape regularly on our fake TiVo. Occasionally, we’ll see ads for other Disney shows, to wit: Handy Manny, premiering this weekend.

Handy. Fucking. Manny!

Can you fucking believe it? I truly think it is impossible for Disney to greenlight anything that isn’t offensive in some way. This is a show aimed squarely at the Latino market, clearly trying to grab some of the Dora market share. The main character is Manny Garcia, a fix-it guy who can fix anything around town with his team of talking tools. Okay, so we all know a lot of little kids are fascinated by tools and fixing things (Bob the Builder, anyone?), but did they have to make the one male Latino character who has his own show a handyman? At least they don’t have him hanging around the Home Depot looking for work, but still…

Oh, so much more to say. Oh, so much work to do. You see the dilemma I’m in?


Cee in SF said...

I am a firm believer that children are not billboards. Children are also not a demographic to be marketed to. I'm with you on that.

E. said...

Disney sucks, for so many reasons. Whenever I admit to my (high school) students that I hate Disney, the boys are just blank and the girls are shocked and offended (usually there's at least one audible gasp). I explain that I think Disney is 1. racist, 2. sexist, and 3. makes emotionally manipulative movies with cheesy endings. Usually they just look confused, but I see a thoughtful look every so often that makes me think there's a reason these conversations come up in class.

My three-year-old son has boy and girl friends, and I hope it continues that way. I don't want him to turn into one of those hypermasculine guys, and it always seems like boys who have friends who are girls aren't that way. When you're close friends with someone, hopefully it makes it harder to reduce their entire gender (or race, or age group, etc.) to a one-dimensional stereotype.

But I also know that kids go through phases, and hopefully Viva will do her princess thing, get her fill, and move on.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

I think that a lot of people who grew up with Disney have such an emotional attachment to it that they don't look at the content that the Disney machine churns out -- the messages that it sends that kids internalize without realizing it.

e: Viva is also going through an "I don't like boys" phase which I am not liking at all. I point out to her that she has friends who are boys, cousins who are boys, and that some of her favorite people (her daddy and her grandpa) were also once boys. In fact, when we walked into her classroom this morning, the second she stepped in, a little boy named Lucas squealed, "VIVA is here! Let me give you a big hug!" and he hugged her while Viva grinned and rolled her eyes heavenward.

Boys ain't all that bad. I think she's getting it.